A group of primarily Norwegian fisheries is facing a proposed class action that alleges the companies conspired to drive up the prices of farm-raised Atlantic salmon in an “unprecedented and unjustified” scheme that resulted in record profits.
A group of primarily Norwegian fisheries has been named in another proposed class action lawsuit. The lawsuit, this time out of Maine, alleges the companies conspired to drive up the prices of farm-raised Atlantic salmon in an “unprecedented and unjustified” scheme that resulted in record profits.
Alleging violations of federal antitrust law, the 110-page complaint claims defendants Mowi ASA, Grieg Seafood ASA, SalMar ASA, Leroy Seafood Group ASA, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd., and their respective subsidiaries have conspired to manipulate the prices of farmed Atlantic salmon sold to commercial and institutional purchasers.
The lawsuit stems from an investigation initiated in February 2019 by the European Commission. During the inquiry, officials conducted unannounced inspections of several of the defendants’ facilities, according to the case. The Commission, the suit says, expressed concerns that the fisheries “participated in anti-competitive agreements and/or concerted practices related to different ways of price coordination in order to sustain and possibly increase the prices for Norwegian salmon.”
The complaint claims the defendants executed their conspiracy by directing subsidiaries to purchase small amounts of fish on the spot market in Norway. According to the lawsuit, although only one percent of Norway’s salmon production is sold on the spot market, the transactions therein set the benchmark for salmon prices worldwide, including annual contract pricing. The sole purpose of the defendants’ purchases on the spot market was to drive up the prices of all farmed Atlantic salmon, the suit says. From the complaint:
“There is no good non-collusive reason for why the ‘big players’—the Norwegian Defendants here—would need to make limited salmon spot market purchases except to drive up the prices on that market. Each of them is an integrated farmed salmon producer. They simply do not need to buy more fish.”
The case claims the defendants further facilitated their conspiracy by sharing “commercially sensitive information,” including price data, during industry events and trade association meetings. This data sharing, the lawsuit alleges, allowed the fisheries to coordinate pricing “in a manner that lessens competition,” as evidenced by “historically unprecedented price increases” during the class period.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of commercial and institutional purchasers in the United States who, at any time since July 1, 2015, purchased farm-raised Atlantic salmon in a manner other than directly from the defendants and their subsidiaries, whose conduct the case says affected the entire market.